Special Report


January 04, 2005 1 min read

Wisconsin’s governor recently formed a task force on educational excellence and charged it with reviewing the state’s school finance system in four areas: student and school achievement, personnel issues, special education, and early-childhood education. The task force made 40 recommendations, including the need for an adequacy study to determine what constitutes a “sound, basic education” and what it would cost to provide one to all students. The task force specifically recommended that the adequacy study address the additional costs incurred from educating large numbers of students with disabilities, English-language learners, and students in poverty. Wisconsin is one of the few states without foundation formulas; the state uses a guaranteed-tax-base formula to allocate aid to districts. State aid is distributed in inverse proportion to district fiscal capacity. It is up to each district to choose its desired level of taxation, and then the state provides aid to equalize the tax yield, thereby reducing inequities in local property wealth. Any district with more than $1.93 million in per-pupil property value is not eligible for operating-formula aid. Wisconsin also includes an element of “recapture” in one part of its three-tiered formula. If a district has “negative aid” in Wisconsin’s third tier of funding, it must share some of its local revenue with districts whose per-pupil property values are lower than the state average.